Peer-to-Peer: Designing a Mentorship Program for Success

There are a plethora of training programs and trainers in the automotive industry many of which have different styles, advice, and opinions. Often, those opinions vary widely. While training is indeed something I advocate in dealerships both as an ongoing initiative and for new-to-the-industry employees (no matter which department), no business can function as a singular unit when everyone has been influenced — and are operating — by many philosophies.


Let’s be real. Our industry has a turnover problem — especially in sales. Hiring a green-pea, showing them how to do a foursquare and then instructing them to go “get an up,” may sound very old school. But it is still the status quo in many dealerships. For those dealerships that do have training integrated into their cultures, great job. But not all training is equal. I’m not necessarily advocating one training system over another… they all have their own pros and cons. What I’m saying is that leadership within the dealership needs to decide what culture, customer experience and values that they want first… then choose a training curriculum that is complimentary.


Even though it’s great that your dealership has decided to provide training materials in which veterans and green peas can learn from, everyone needs to be on the same page. How is a sales manager desking a deal supposed to know what close a salesperson is using in the box and how to showcase the next set of figures if they don’t know what the salesperson is telling the customer? It’s like a football team in which each position studied a different playbook. Neither the coach, quarterback or positional players will know what their teammates are supposed to do!


Mentorship programs have been, and are used, by many of the most successful companies in the world. To great success. Why? Because, as leaders, we all know that there are people in any organization that exemplify the quality standards, culture and customer experience that we want our customers to travel through. The shallow answer is a business should train and pair their new employees with the existing ones that make all of the profit. But that isn’t always the right one. Why? Because those judgments are typically made based on immediate gross profit. Sure, that 20+ car per month salesperson may slay it and have excellent gross in their deals. But what is the long-term effect? Are they sacrificing long-term relationships for short-term gross profit at the expense of a reduced lifetime customer value? While it might be great that your salesperson is closing deals with high front ends, many of those customers could be worth much more over their lifetime if they were treated differently.


Designing a mentorship program isn’t time-consuming, but it does take thought. The biggest question that you should ask yourself when choosing potential mentors, in each of your dealership’s departments, is who best represents the culture and values of your dealership that you want to instill in your new hires. You’d be surprised at the answer you may come up with.


Once you know what you want your company to be, how you want your dealership to be perceived by your customers and have created processes that reinforce those ideals, the employees that will be the best mentors typically glow like a hot sun. These are the employees that you want to strengthen, guide and mentor your new employees (whether those be veteran or green peas) so that your dealership is operating in unison, as a team, and under the same philosophies.


Establish a mentoring program in which these previously identified employees can help mold your green peas into models of themselves thus reinforcing the foundation that you’ve created. When you do, you'll find that it’s easier to not only operate as a team but also in a way that exponentially advances your business branding and goals while solidifying your customer experience into one that’s consistent and repeatable.


And that’s how you win in retail.

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